Surveying a school system that is adding 1,000 students a year and scurrying to construct enough facilities to meet that rapidly expanding enrollment, a Howard County task force has recommended that officials begin planning for more flexibility, including offering year-round classes.
The task force report, called Toward the Year 2000, includes more than 105 recommendations intended to keep the county at the head of the class in progressive education systems. It was released to the school board last week.
Among the changes in schools envisoned by the task force:The county would make greater use of the school system as a community learning center offering cradle-to-grave educational services. For example, schools would be used more extensively for adult education classes as well as cultural courses. Senior citizens would be encouraged to return to the classroom and to help staff day care centers.
School buildings may be designed like "Lego" toy sets, with a central administrative facility and detachable modules that can be renovated and moved to different sites for enrollment shifts.
Businesses and schools are expected to develop closer ties as teachers take time off to work in industry, students participate in work-study jobs, and business executives teach students high-tech innovations.
Al Scavo, chairman of the committee that drafted the report, said it gives school officials a head start in planning.
"We want to have an excellent program tomorrow as well as today," said Scavo, a vice president of the Rouse Co.
"There are a lot of thoughts and possibilities," said School Board Chairwoman Anne L. Dodd. "There were no big surprises, but I found gems of wisdom throughout."
Sandra French, president of the PTA Council of Howard County, said the report was right on the mark in predicting the changing role of schools. In the next century, schools will become more "multigenerational," French said, and they will bring together different age groups to learn and to understand each other better.
However, Howard Community College President Dwight A. Burrill expressed some concerns about the report's proposed expansion of adult education classes at county schools. Continuing education courses traditionally have been the domain of community colleges, he said.
Moving to year-round schools could boost capacity by 30 percent and increase classroom time for students, according to Superintendent Michael Hickey.
The concept of year-round schools is not new. Hickey said the school board has set up a task force to study the idea. During the three-month summer hiatus, students forget many basic skills taught during the school year, Hickey said. Shortening the vacation break to three to four weeks could improve student retention, he said.
Despite the report's recommendation, it will be at least three years before year-round schools could be set up in Howard, Hickey said. Even then, the program would be voluntary, he said.
More efficient use of school facilities will save money on construction costs and duplicative services, Scavo said. Although the school system is expected to grow by 1,000 students a year during the next decade, school officials said they expect enrollment to decline or level off after that.
The school system already is on a building boom to handle the rapid growth. But the report recommends that officials start planning for the years when enrollment will shrink and the county's population will grow older.
That means changes in conventional school construction, the report said. Among the recommendations: more use of central core buildings with movable classrooms, and "cottage schools" designed to meet short-term growth demands and later renovated for elderly housing or day care facilities.
Also, the report recommends more joint use of facilities, such as ball fields and basketball courts, to reduce costs. The School Board plans to hold a series of public hearings during the next 12 months on the report. The first hearing is set for Dec. 3, although a site has not been chosen.
By November 1988, the school board is expected to adopt an operating plan and budget to implement recommendations from the the report.
The long-range planning project, begun three years ago, was Hickey's brainchild. It was based on a similar plan developed while Hickey worked with the St. Louis Park, Minn., school system.
More than 300 county residents participated in developing the report, Scavo said. A steering committee was divided into six groups that focused on community programs, educational programs, school facilities, organization and staff development, students and technology.
Each task force held monthly meetings to develop recommendations and encourage residents to contribute to the report, Scavo said. Efforts were made to target specific groups, such as teachers, students and parents, he said.